With cooler weather a lot of people mistakenly think that it is ok to stop using flea and tick prevention. Even with the cooler weather fleas are still very active and we are seeing an uptick in flea infestations right now.
This can be a tricky problem and for the most part, it’s a combination of factors that include either stopping parasite prevention or having indoor pets (cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) that are not on prevention and acting as a host to continue the infestation.
Flea Life Cycle
- Eggs- Eggs are small and white. They are laid on the animals but quickly fall off into the environment. They need a warm dry environment to continue to grow…really anywhere your pet feel comfortable fleas (of all life stages) will feel comfortable.
- Larvae- These are maggot like and they feed on blood in adult flea feces, organic debris, flea eggshells and other larvae. Larvae will not develop in areas exposed to prolonged sunlight. The speed of development is dependent on temperature and humidity. Larvae like to develop in carpet, on furniture and along baseboards.
- Pupae- These look like white cocoons and can be found in soil, vegetation, carpets, under furniture, and bedding. Adult fleas emerge ~8-13 days after pupal development but they can live in the cocoon for up to 30 weeks. Mechanical stimulation (vibrations from the vacuum), increase in temperature and increase in CO2 levels can all stimulate flea emergence from the cocoon.
- Adults- Adults begin feeding immediately when on the host. Egg production begins within 20-24 hours of females taking their first blood meal. Female fleas can produce 40-50 eggs per day and adults can survive 2-3 months.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council currently recommends that dogs and cats be on a monthly parasite prevention all year round. If you find yourself in a position where you have an infection remember to treat ALL animals that live in the home. If you feed stray or feral cats or dogs move feeding stations away from the primary residence and treat as many of them as you can. Calling an exterminator to treat the home will help reduce the parasite load in the home but plan on at least 3 months before your home will be flea free.
Keep in mind that there is significant resistance to some over the counter flea preventatives and keep be sure to follow all instructions on products to prevent accidental toxicities. Ideally call your veterinarian for safe and effective products.
The best way to prevent infestations is to use monthly parasite preventions on all pets. We often find that the dogs in the house are on prevention but the cats are not because they do not go outside. However, fleas will come in on the dog and on people and cause an infestation.
Keep in mind that the animals in the house are not the only ones at risk when fleas are in the house. People that are bitten can develop disease too. In addition to allergic reactions to the bites there are several zoonotic diseases that can be passed from fleas to people.